Fewer residents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough were out of work and the overall labor pool was bigger during the first 11 months of 2006 than in the same period in 2005, according to the latest borough statistics released in late December.
The data compiled by borough economic analyst Jeanne Camp shows that over the full 11 months of 2006 for which figures exists, the labor force grew by 21 people, unemployment fell by 55 workers, the unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percent and overall employment grew by 76 jobs, compared to 2005’s 11-month figures.
If the trend continues through December (those stats are not yet available), 2006 would prove the best employment year in at least the past 17 years, and if the current 2006 average unemployment rate of 8.4 percent is not changed by December figures, the third-best annual unemployment rate of the same period.
The generally good employment news continued into and through November 2006. The labor data shows that the number of unemployed workers this past November was 170 less than in November 2005, despite the annual decline in employment typical of fall season.
However, the labor force itself grew even more rapidly, adding 467 new workers for a total of 24,419. Those two factors contributed to an increase in November employment of 637 jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate of 0.9 percent over November 2005 numbers. In fact, November’s labor force was fairly close to the 2006 average of 25,040.
Mayor John Williams was in meetings and not available for comment Friday. Bill Popp, special assistant to the mayor, said the employment data was an indicator of the growing strength of the borough economy.
“We have a modest but healthy decline in unemployment in the face of a growing workforce,” he said. “It is continuing a trend showing the borough is headed in the right direction.”
The borough also has been tracking housing values, which serve as another indicator of an economy growing fitter.
“Looking at data, lower peninsula home values rose from $120,000 in 2001 to $192,500 as of November 2006. That’s showing a strong housing market,” Popp said. “On the upper peninsula north of Ninilchik, the median value has risen from $127,500 in 2001 to $180,000 by November 2006, another indicator of economic activity.”
Hal Spence can be reached at email@example.com.
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